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greatest enemies to themselves that they have in all the world besides, not only by drawing upon them the hatred and enmity of all that are about them, but likewise by tormenting themselves with such frivolous things, as such spirits commonly do. Wherefore that I may please God, my neighbour, and myself, in what I speak, Though I could excel other men (which is impossible for me to suppose) in every thing, I resolve, by God's grace, always to behave myself so, as if I excelled them in nothing; and not only to speak reverently to them that are above me, but humbly and civilly to those that are beneath me too. I will always endeavour to use such humble winning words, as to manifest more of my love to them, than my power over them, I will always season my tongue with savory, not bitter expressions; not making my mouth a vent for my fury and passion to fume out at, but rather an instrument to draw others' love and affec tion in by; still speaking as civilly unto others, as I would have them speak civilly to me.
RESOLUTIONS CONCERNING MY ACTIONS.
THE other way of my soul's putting forth and showing herself to the world, is, by her actions, which it concerns me as much to look to and regulate, as my words; forasmuch as there is not the least ill circumstance in any action, but what, unless it be repented of, must be brought into question and answered for at the last day for though an action cannot be denominated good, unless it be good in all circumstances and respects, yet it is always denominated bad, if it is bad only in one. As it is in music, if but one string jar or be out of tune, the whole harmony is spoiled, so here, if but one circumstance in an action be wanting or defective, the whole action is thereby rendered immoral.
How much therefore doth it behove me to keep a strict watch over myself, and so to perform every action, and place every circumstance in it, that it may have its approbation in the court of heaven! Well; I am resolved, by the grace of God, to try what I can do. I
know it is impossible for me to resolve upon particular actions; but howsoever I shall resolve upon such general rules, the application of which to particular acts may make them pleasing and acceptable in the sight of God; always premising this, which I have resolved upon before, as the best foundation, namely, to square all my actions by the scripture rule, and to do nothing, but what I have, some way or other, a warrant for in the word of God. Upon this fixed and steady principle,
I am resolved, by the grace of God, to do every thing in obedience to the will of God.
It is not sufficient that what I do is the will of God, but I must therefore do it, because it is the will of God. For what saith my Father? My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways. So that my Father will not only have my hand, but my heart too; and my feet must not walk in the ways of God, till my eyes have observed and discerned them to be so. I may do an action that in itself is good, and yet, at the same time, not do a good action, if I do not therefore do it, because it is so. For instance, I may give an alms to the poor, feed the hungry, or clothe the naked; but let me examine and consider well, upon what principle these actions are founded, whether I therefore do them, because God hath commanded them; if not, my feeding of the poor will be no more a good action, than the ravens feeding the prophet was. Their feeding of the prophet was commanded by God, as well as my feeding of the poor, but I cannot say, they did a good action, because though they did do this which was commanded by God, yet, being irrational creatures, they could not reflect upon that command, and so could not do this in obedience to it.
There are some persons, to the very frame and disposition of whose spirits some sins are, in their nature, odious and abominable. Thus I have known some, whose very constitutions have carried them into an antipathy to lust and luxury; and others again, who could never endure Div.
to drink beyond their thirst, much less to unman and bebeast themselves by drinking to excess. And the like may be observed of covetousness, which Luther was such an enemy to, that it is said to have been against his very nature. Now, I say, though the abstaining from these sins be highly commendable in all sorts of persons, yet unless, together with the streams of their natural disposition, there run likewise a spiritual desire to please God and obey his commands, their abstaining from these vices is no more than the brute beasts themselves do, who always act according to the temper of their bodies, and are never guilty of any excesses that are prejudicial to them. Hence, servants are commanded to be obedient to their masters, with good-will doing service as to the Lord, and not to men; which clearly shows, that though a servant doth obey his master, yet if he doth not do it in obedience unto God, he will not find acceptance with him. So that whensoever I set my hand to any action that is good, I must still fix my eye upon God's com manding of it, and do it only in respect to that; as knowing, that if I give but a farthing to the poor in all my life, and do it in obedience to God's commands, it shall be accepted sooner than theirs, who feed hundreds at their table every day, and have not respect to the same command.
Do I see a poor wretch ready to fall down to the earth for want of a little support, and my bowels begin to yearn towards him? Let me search into my heart, and see what it is that raises this compassion in me. If it flows only from a natural tenderness to a brother in misery, without regard to the love of God who has commanded and enjoined it, the poor man may be succoured and relieved, but God will not be pleased or delighted with it. Again, do my friends stir me up to pray, or hear, or do any other spiritual or civil action, and I therefore only do it because of their importunity? I may satisfy my friends' desire, but cannot properly be said to obey the commands of God, in such a performance; so that the great and only foundation that I must resolve to build all the actions of my life upon is a uniform obedience to that God, by whom alone I am enabled to perform them,
I am resolved, by the grace of God, to do every thing with prudence and discretion, as well as with zeal and affection.
WHILST I am penned up in this earthly tabernacle, I live almost as in a darksome dungeon, having no light to work by, but a little that springs in at the narrow crevices of my understanding. So that I had need to make use of all that little light and knowledge I have, to regulate the heat and zeal that sometimes sits upon my spirit; for good passions may sometimes carry me into bad actions. My zeal, when hot in the pursuits of God's glory, may sometimes hurry me beyond his laws; especially where Christian prudence hath not first chalked out the way, and set the bounds for it: as, in discourse, my zeal may put me upon throwing pearls before swine, or using words, when silence may be more commendable; so in my actions too, unless wisdom and discretion go; veru and command my affections, I shall frequently run into such as would be altogether needless and impertinent, and therefore ought to be omitted, and daily neglect several duties which ought to be performed.
But my understanding and discretion is chiefly requisite for the ordering of time and place, and other particular circumstances, the irregular management of which may easily spoil the best of actions. For instance- that may be a good work at one time and place, which is not at another; and may be very innocent and becoming in one person, though quite contrary in another. It is therefore the proper office of my understanding, to point out the fittest time, and place, and person, for the performance of each action I engage in. As for example—in distributing to the poor, my hand of charity must be either guided by the eye of understanding, where, when, how much, and to whom, to give; or else I may, at the same time, not only offend God, but wrong my neighbour and myself too. And so for all other actions whatsoever; which I ought, therefore, never to set myself about,
though it be of the lowest rank, without consulting the rules of wisdom, modelled by the law of God.
I am resolved, by the grace of God, never to set my hand, my head, or my heart, about any thing, but what I verily believe is good in itself, and will be esteemed so by God.
WITHOUT faith, the apostle tells me, it is impossible to please God; for whatsoever is not of faith, is sin; where, by faith, we are not to understand that saving faith, whereby I believe my person is justified through Christ; but that, whereby I believe my works shall be accepted by God; for faith here is opposed to doubting, and that not about Christ's dying for me or my living in him, but about the particular actions of my life. He that doubteth, saith the apostle, is damned, if he eat ; that is, he that eateth that which he doubteth whether he may lawfully eat or no, is damned; because he sins in doing it, and therefore may be damned for it. But why so? Because he eateth not of faith; because he doth that, which he knows not whether he may do or no, not believing it to be really good in itself or acceptable unto God. And, though the apostle here instances only in that particular action of eating, yet what he says with relation to that is properly applicable to all the other actions of life: for, he afterwards subjoins, whatsoever is not of faith, is sin; whatsoever it is, good or bad, if not done by faith, it is sin.
And truly this particular will be of great use through my whole life, for the avoiding of many sins, and for the doing of much good; for many things, which are good in themselves, may, for want of faith, become quite otherwise to me; my heart not believing what I do is good, my hand can never make it so; or if I think what I do is bad, though it be not so in itself, yet my very thinking it so will make it so to me.
And this is that which we call doing any thing with a good conscience, or keeping, as St. Paul did, our conscience void of offence. And to go contrary to the dic